We wrap up Weis and Arnesen’s “Thriving as a City in 2020: A Model for Urban Vitality” today with a sweeping summary of what it will for cities of the future to be viable.
A significant change in the way we see cities and their infrastructure is necessary if we are to preserve what remains of urban America. Only a complete paradigm shift will bring back the hundreds of urban centers that vanished – more precisely, that were destroyed — over the past half century. The key to urban renaissance is population density, and requisite to urban density are most of the other attributes that comprise a vibrant urban environment: comprehensive mass transit, pedestrian commercial centers, absence of intra-city highways, and attractive public spaces.
Cities will return to life when people choose to live in their centers, and for that to occur our urban cores must offer ample life-style amenities along with an appealing environment. As Shakespeare’s fictional Sicinius was told 400 years ago, a city is its people. People – not stadiums and convention centers – bring sustaining commercial vitality to a city. People – not exhibition halls and casinos – bring cultural and social energy. People – not throughways and parking lots – give a city its soul and its reason for being.
Sicinius: What is the city but the people?
Citizens: True, The people are the city. (Shakespeare, 1609)
In their closing statements, Weis and Arnesen reaffirm the necessity of a paradigm shift if we are rebuild cities to last into the future of an increasingly crowded, increasingly warmer world. The vitals of a city in 2020 are desirable housing, natural beauty, close-by amenities, functional transit – all that is to say, cities of the future need to be about people first and foremost. It is for this reason – people – that we must make our lifestyles sustainable – something, Weis and Arnesen have argued, will require a recast, re-imagined city model.